(San Antonio, Texas)
I inquired here about some black caterpillars that are eating my dahlias a couple of weeks ago, but was told that by my description and the time of year, that they could not be the Tiger Moth Caterpillar, as they should have pupated by now. I wonder if the large amounts of rainfall we’ve had this year would mess with their regular cycles?
The same type of caterpillars are still active in my containers and munching away at my dahlias as I type here today.
The caterpillars range in size from about an inch long to four inches long, have black bristly fuzz all over their bodies, and have red bands on their skin that are visible when they curl into a ball.
I measured the largest one, it was curled up, but I circled it gently with a tape measure and it was 4″ tip to tail. The hairs that appear white on the close-up are black – it’s a reflection of the flash.
Thank you, Moni, for helping me ID these little guys!
it’s the giant leopard moth caterpillar. Thanks for sending in the photo.
The larvae feed on a great variety of broad-leaved plants, including banana, cabbage, cherry, dandelion, maple, orange, sunflower, violet, and willow. And guess we can add dahlias to that list :).
One of my guides says, Spends the winter as a caterpillar (Caterpillars of Eastern Forests(1) says it overwinters August to May – presumably this varies by location). One generation per year in the north; sometimes two generations in the south.” So perhaps since you have more than one generation that far south that is why you have the various sizes.
These are found thru out eastern North America. The adults are white moths with small black dots and rings covering the wings. Moths are sometimes found at lights at night.
Thanks for not killing them. They should pupate soon!.. I hope for your dahlias sake!